Funny Girl to Funny Lady (1975)
Performed at Washington, D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Eisenhower Theater, the television special Funny Girl to Funny Lady was half live and half taped— and all Barbra! The entire evening benefited the Special Olympics and was so high-profile that President Gerald Ford attended. In the audience, too, were TV personalities Howard Cosell, Barbara Walters, heavyweight champion George Foreman, and basketball star Julius Erving. ABC sportscaster Frank Gifford appeared on film and on stage to talk about the Special Olympics.
The very beginning of the special showed Barbra walking through the lobby of the Kennedy Center with two children. The sound of Barbra singing “Great Day” played over the scene. (FYI: It was the first time her alternate vocal to “Great Day” was heard by fans. The vocal would show up 23 years later on the Arista CD of Funny Lady.)
The taped part of Funny Girl to Funny Lady was a cute interview with host Dick Cavett. “We're actually on tape right now. Do you think they understand that?” Barbra asked Cavett. Lounging in Kennedy Center theater seats, Barbra and Dick talked about Funny Lady and clips from the film were shown, including a nicely edited “music video” of romantic film clips from Streisand’s previous films to the song “Fine and Dandy.”
Next, the live part!
Barbra, introduced by Dick Cavett, walked on the Kennedy Center stage and sang an introspective version of “The Way We Were.” The orchestra behind her was conducted by longtime musical associate Peter Matz. After she finished the song, Barbra interrupted the enthusiastically applauding audience by saying, “If you applaud too much we’ll run out of time, this is live, live.”
After that, Barbra sang an electrifying version of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and an intimate “My Man.” Barbra then told a couple of Godfather jokes, introduced costar James Caan and sang “I Like Him/Paper Moon” with Caan.
Barbra left the stage to change her outfit while James Caan set the scene for Barbra’s last number ... her only live performance of “How Lucky Can You Get.” Barbra strode out on stage looking sleek and gorgeous with her long hair and trim body. Her voice was flawless and the song utilized the “pop” orchestration with the guitar ending—much like the bonus single on the remastered Arista CD.
After the commercial, Barbra received a special award from Mohammed Ali. However, the producers gave Streisand the “wrap-up” cue and Barbra joked that it was a live show and they were out of time. Because the show was broadcast live, Barbra’s rendition of “People” was cut off—the live audience in attendance at the Eisenhower Theatre got to hear it, however. (It was also recorded by the cameras).
Streisand fan Jeff Bazell attended the premiere and remembered, “When she finished the concert, she came up the aisle, sat in the seat immediately to my left, Jon Peters was on her left. She sat there, looking exactly like that photo in the Butterfly inside cover of her snuggling up to Jon on his chest.”
Although Streisand made it look effortless, she’d actually fought off stage fright due to last-minute rehearsals. At eleven p.m. the evening before the concert, Streisand and Caan left a dinner party at the Iranian Embassy. The sheet music for the live concert, which had accidentally been shipped to Las Vegas instead of D.C., arrived and Streisand and Caan left to rehearse late at the Kennedy Center.
Jon Peters told a reporter before the concert started, “She really doesn’t like to perform live. There’s so much pressure and tension. She’s especially nervous tonight.”
Below: Another industry ad for the live television show.
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